While OpTic has garnered a massive fan base through its wildly successful Call of Duty team, the organization has, admittedly, been slow to expand into other titles. OpTic signed a CS:GO roster in 2016, and recently announced that they'd be entering Blizzard's Overwatch League by claiming the spot in Houston, Texas. But OpTic COO Ryan Musselman says that the slow expansion is both intentional and calculated, adding that it's another part of the team's strategy to grow and maintain their enormous fanbase.
"We've always been very calculated on how we see our brands and it's part of the reason why, if you look at our history, we stayed in the shooter genres," Musselman told theScore esports. "We felt it was really important to build a brand in terms of content before entering the esports scene. We wanted to create a brand that would be hyped up when we get on the stage but still stay with us through tough times."
Musselman says that OpTic has kept their reach measured because they want to make sure that they can retain existing fans as they expand into different esports. There are ample opportunities to recruit OpTic fans, but Musselman says the team's existing fanbase will move with OpTic as long as the game is right and and the players can produce the kind of personality-driven videos the organization has become known for.
"We've learned that it's actually not that difficult to step into another space," he said. "There's certainly plenty of research and development that can take place, a lot of relationship building to make sure we're getting the right players. But from our audience perspective, [fans] get so passionate about us stepping into a smaller esport, or an esport where we can continue to build the OpTic story and I think that's why we stayed so true to the fanbase we've had over the years."
OpTic's biggest, and most recent, expansion was into CS:GO, an already established esport in terms of its ability to support dozens of top teams and leagues. Overwatch, on the other hand, has had a pretty shaky year as a competitive game, and the OWL itself is unproven. Musselman says that OpTic's existing relationship with Activision helped jumpstart the introduction process and the organization was already interested in getting into Overwatch from the beginning.
According to Musselman, OpTic was in talks to sign an Overwatch roster in July 2016, but their deal fell through and Blizzard made the OWL announcement before the organization found a new roster. After that, OpTic looked into whether or not it made sense to join the league before starting the application process over the summer. As for why they were interested in Overwatch, Musselman says that the org sees the future of esports in the OWL.
"You know, Activision Blizzard, they have one of the best histories of creating communities around games and, if you look at our history, it's very storied and very successful along the lines of first person shooters," he said. "So when we look at Overwatch League and the support behind it, the level of detail that's coming into the space, the opportunity it's going to provide not only to the players but to the audience and at the team and professional and managerial staff level, it really became a no-brainer for us."
There are going to be some complications though. OpTic recently announced a corporate relocation to Dallas, but their Overwatch team will be representing Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Meanwhile, their long-time Call of Duty rivals, Team EnVyUs, will be making their home in Dallas.
Musselman says that OpTic is still going to be setting up shop in Dallas, and that's not changing just because the team will be playing for a different part of the state. Either way, OpTic wants to be in Texas because that's where their fans are.
"We look at our fanbase and it's global in nature. So if you're anywhere and you bleed green, you're one of us," he said. "So even us being in one central location, while we call that home we still love the fact that we have a global audience. That said when you look at Texas in itself, just in 2017 alone, the total watch time from our audience is close to about 14, 15 years. There's a large fanbase that really consumes our content here in Texas."
In order to satisfy that fanbase, OpTic isn't looking to just buy an existing Overwatch roster outright. Musselman says that the general manager the organization has hired isn't trying to assemble an all-star roster, and is instead looking to build a team from the ground up and focus on players who can work well together. A pre-existing roster might have baggage that would prevent them from fitting in neatly with the OpTic brand, and, Musselman says he does't think all-star rosters live up to the hype.
"I think when we look at our approach to Overwatch, while it's a sprint to get the right players to build that chemistry, it definitely comes down to a marathon," he said. "Developing players over time with the right managerial staff and the right focus. So, we're not into buying a roster, we have a very clear vision about how we want to build out the roster and then our management staff are making a lot of progress and we're very confident in our approach."
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.